Dr. Lindsey Glickfeld
Dr. Lindsey Glickfeld
Assistant Professor Department of Neurobiology, Duke University
Postdoctoral Fellow Harvard University
PhD in Neuroscience University of California San Diego
While Dr. Lindsey Glickfeld was interested in science ever since she was a kid, her entry into neuroscience in particular was serendipitous. As a freshman at Stanford University intending to study genetics, she happened to see an intriguing email from a graduate student who was looking for research help. As it turned out, that graduate student was in Richard Tsien’s lab, and she soon found herself joining a neuroscience lab with very little knowledge of neuroscience at all. The graduate student she worked with was studying neurotransmission - a concept that she was previously completely unfamiliar with - but she was quickly enthralled by the techniques that enabled her to visualize neurotransmitters being released into a synapse in real time. From there, her passion for neuroscience only grew, and she stayed in the Tsien lab studying synaptic transmission at the molecular and cellular levels during her whole time as an undergraduate. Little did she know that responding to that email as a freshman would set her up for a full career in neuroscience, studying synaptic function all the way from the level of cells, to small-scale circuits, and finally to full-scale cortical circuits processing visual information as an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University.
As Lindsey transitioned from her undergrad lab to graduate school at the University of California - San Diego, she wanted to expand her knowledge of synaptic transmission, she was particularly interested in how the anatomy and physiology of synapses affected their function. This led her to the laboratory of Massimo Scanziani, where she studied how synaptic mechanisms affect inhibition in a hippocampal circuit. Lindsey loved the types of experiments she was doing in grad school but still found herself wondering how synaptic activity at the circuit level related to processing information about the environment.
After graduate school, Lindsey decided to study the visual system, where experiments can better link the physiology of a single neuron to the sensory information that exists in the environment. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Clay Reid at Harvard University, she fearlessly decided to tackle a highly technical experiment that required imaging and recording from the same neuron in the intact brain and in a slice preparation, respectively. While this experiment was considered almost impossible, she pursued it in the hopes of understanding how the sensory response properties of neurons in the visual cortex directly related to their connectivity. However, the project was proving to be a lot for a single person, and her hard work was further challenged when another group published results from a very similar set of experiments. Some could have given up at this point, but Lindsey, instead of getting discouraged, took the opportunity to switch gears and focus on another project that ultimately yielded very exciting results. During this experience, she was reminded of advice from her PhD advisor that “there is no such thing as being scooped” because you always learn from the data. Lindsey has strongly taken this to heart; her philosophy is to do the experiments you are passionate about without the fear of others doing the same. She remarks that it is a disservice to science to not verify that what others have shown is replicable. Moreover, no two datasets are identical so as scientists we must learn all we can from the data we collect. This philosophy has proven successful as Lindsey has completed and published many influential studies in her field.
In her laboratory at Duke University, Lindsey uses the mouse as a model organism, which allows her to combine genetics, electrophysiology, imaging and behavior to understand how visual information is transformed in the visual cortex. For example, she wants to understand how in the visual cortex simple receptive fields come to represent something more complex, like an object. Her scientific accomplishments and impact were recognized early in her career with the NIH New Innovator Award.
Throughout Lindsey’s career, curiosity has been her driver. Curiosity drove her to answer a career-defining email, to try a seemingly impossible experiment, and to pursue new questions without fear. As a principal investigator, Dr. Lindsey Glickfeld now gets to enjoy the challenge of leading multiple exciting projects that are shaped by her fearlessness and curiosity.
Listen to Megan’s full interview with Lindsey on March 5th, 2019 below!